Ars Technica snapped up by Conde Nast

by Mathew on May 16, 2008 · 10 comments

On the heels of CBS acquiring CNET for $1.8-billion comes another deal involving “old” media and “new” media: according to TechCrunch, the folks over at Conde Nast — the magazine publishing family that owns Vogue, the New Yorker and Wired — have plunked down about $25-million for Ars Technica, the tech site that recently caused a minor blog storm over an alleged lack of attribution in their blogs posts. Kara Swisher of All Things D has a video interview with site co-founder Ken “Caesar” Fisher.

Although Conde Nast is mostly known for print magazines, it has been making inroads into digital publishing, including the purchase of Wired (for about $25-million) last year, as well as the acquisition of Digg competitor Reddit. Conde also owns Epicurious.com and the recently-launched online magazine Portfolio, and has other online assets including Style.com and Brides.com. Conde Nast is a unit of Advance Publications, a private company controlled by the Newhouse family that also owns a number of local business journals and U.S. newspapers.

According to FM Publishing’s page on Ars Technica, the site gets about 19 million page views a month (TechCrunch says the site gets 4.5 million uniques a month, according to a source). With a CPM fee of about $36 per ad, that means the site could make as much as $2-million a month in advertising revenue — and it apparently has just eight employees, including co-founders Ken “Caesar” Fisher and Jon “Hannibal” Stokes, who started the site in 1998.

Update:

I remembered that Doug McIntyre from 24/7 Wall Street did a financial analysis of some of the leading blogs and their theoretical value awhile back, so I went and looked at it, and here’s what he said:

“Ars Technica: $15 million. High church high tech blog. Sites ranks 2,500 in Alexa. Compete shows over 800,000 visitors. Audience is growing very rapidly. Quancast has reach at 1.1 million. Ads are all premium clients. Site should be getting $40 per page CPM. Page views are probably six million a month. Revenue of almost $3 million. Site appears to have high end edit staff writing. Margin estimated at 35%. High-end site should be very valuable. Fifteen times operating profit.”

Not bad, Doug. Obviously Conde Nast thought it was worth a little more. Ken Fisher’s note to the Ars community is here.

  • http://slashdot.org Sal

    Congrats to the Ars guys. I think they deserve it, and here's hoping that Conde Naste doesn't come in and screw it up. I think it's fair to say that Reddit hasn't been screwed up by Conde Nast, yet. Harder to imagine how it might effect a content company however!

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I actually think Conde Nast is not a bad fit for Ars. I think it and
    Wired should be able to work pretty well together. In a lot of ways,
    Ars is kind of like a magazine anyway — it just doesn't have a
    printed version.

  • calvin pearson

    Am still waitng for Arrington to write this one: “Why Conde bought Ars, and not the other way around?”

    more seriously, this one is bizarre. ars isn't very relevant and conde is limited when it comes to the high tech space. the cbs/cnet deal which you trashed (unfairly, imho) yesterday appears to make for a far more powerful combination.

  • http://gonze.com Lucas Gonze

    $36 CPM is very very rich. Even if they get that on some page views, they don't have 100% sell through at that rate.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Calvin, I don't see how you can say Ars isn't very relevant and Conde
    Nast doesn't have much depth in tech — and I guess we'll just have to
    disagree about CBS and CNET.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That's a fair point, Lucas. Those are pretty high CPMs for a site like
    Ars, and assuming they get that for every page view is probably
    overstating things. That said, however, I looked at TechCrunch and saw
    that Ars has about four times as many page views, and I had seen an
    estimate somewhere that TC was making about $600,000 a month, so I
    thought I was in the right ballpark revenue-wise.

  • http://www.onlinemediacultist.com Eric Berlin

    Agree with Lucas — that was my first thought: $36 CPM seems awfully high. Perhaps they get it for a limited amount of inventory but can't imagine it's across -the-board.

    Also agree with Mathew that Ars could be a good fit for Conde — they're putting together a pretty interesting digital portfolio.

  • sevin malony

    saw the 24/7 “analysis”. assuming it's right – and i very much doubt those numbers reflect reality – then, folk,s we're back to the bubblicious days. but hey, if ars or any of these other sites can find a buyer, more power to them. nothing wrong with being greedy if some dope is begging to give you their money. but c'mon, we've been here before. or has everyone in the world forgotten the “battle for eyeballs” back a few years ago.

    anyway, pass the bong and inhale deeply. and the band played on

  • http://dan.matan.ca Dan Matan

    I've been an Ars member since '99. Although the news side of things is very well done, the forums are where it's at (and seemingly where a lot of the current editors have been tapped from).

    Over the past year or two, they've done a really good job on getting onto Slashdot and Google News with their well written articles, which presumably added a lot of value/eyeballs.

    I'd imagine that the forums, the root of the community, don't create much ad revenue (and they might lose a lot of their for-pay subs and for-pay premium subbers). But it probably could if they decided to go with annoying in-your-face adverts.

    Only time will tell, here's to another good 8.5 years.

  • http://www.ventureline.com financial analysis

    t has been making inroads into digital publishing, including the purchase of Wired (for about $25-million) last year

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